Oberon’s “The Fever” Brings Sense of Community to Theatrical Experience

 

by Mike Hoban

 

The Fever – Written and Directed by Abigail Browde & Michael Silverstone. Created in collaboration with Brandon Wolcott, Emil Abramyan, and Eric Southern. Produced by Oberon in collaboration with 600 Highwaymen. Performed at the Ex at the Loeb Theatre, 64 Brattle St. Cambridge through November 19

 

If you’re one of those folks who is a little (or a lot) skittish about the thought of attending a show where audience participation is built into the theatrical experience, relax, The Fever is not that kind of a show. In fact, it’s not really a “show” at all, certainly not in any traditional theatrical sense. This oddly compelling piece plays more like a social experiment in unforced compliance than theater, but it works in a way that never feels forced or hokey.

 

As someone who has been a performer of some sort for most of my life, the thought of being dragged on stage or even asked to sing along to a song that I have no interest in singing has never been my idea of fun. But with Fever, there is no coercion, save for the occasional gentle request such as, “Will someone come and help me up?” as one of the “cast” members, lying prone on the floor, asks the audience to do during the performance. In fact, while there are a few such requests in order to keep the action moving in the right direction, much of the experience comes from the audience just following along with whatever happens, like a singalong of motion.

 

The playing area is a gymnasium-esque rectangle, one row of seats deep, with approximately 80 or so audience members sitting elbow to elbow in their chairs. The experience builds slowly, with a lone woman rhythmically raising and lowering her hands, The audience members soon join in, doing a kind of silent (but way cooler) version of the Wave usually seen at sporting events, until the entire audience is participating. This leads into a loose narrative about a woman named Maryanne having a party, where the audience serves as house guests and neighbors, but mostly it appears to be device to get the audience on their feet and interacting within that storyline.

 

Accompanied by lighting changes and music, a mood is created where people do seem to be connecting to the piece in a way that feels nothing like a social experiment (despite incorporating a version of the “trust fall”). There is something about the structure of The Fever that feels not only non-threatening, but inviting, as the audience members wordlessly leave their seats and join in. In an age where people’s version of “connecting” with fellow humans is posting a “like” on Facebook, The Fever  is really a not-so radical reminder that being with others is the real source of the spirit, if only for the 75 minutes of the production. For more information, go to: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/fever

Trinity Rep’s 40th Anniversary “A CHRISTMAS CAROL” A Holiday Gem

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Trinity Repertory Company ushers in the holiday season for their 40th Anniversary of their production of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming. The show’s underlying themes of charity, forbearance and benevolence are universal and are equally relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds especially with the unsettling events in this country and around the world. This familiar tale is about the curmudgeonly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Future who hope to change his destiny and save his soul to ultimately discover the true meaning of Christmas.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time and the Mystery and Suspense Genre

 

by Michael Cox

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-TimeAdapted by Simon Stephens from the novel by Mark Haddon. Produced by Speakeasy Stage Company and playing at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion October 20 – November 25.

 

Just after midnight in Swindon, a town 71 miles West of London, fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone finds a dog brutally murdered in his neighbor’s garden. Wellington, a cherished family pet, has been impaled with a pitchfork and is still pinned to the ground. Mrs. Eileen Shears, the owner of the dog and the garden, calls the police. And when they arrive they’re looking for answers. But Christopher can’t provide them. Instead, he assaults the officer.

 

As The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time unfolds, Christopher tells us his side of the story. He writes it down in a notebook as part of a school project, and he chooses to convey the experience as a murder mystery.

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Revisiting History with The Longwood Players’ “A Bright Room Called Day”

 

by James Wilkinson

 

The Longwood Players present A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner. Nov 3-11, 2017. Presented at Chelsea Theatre Works. Directed by Kaitlyn Chantry. Set Design by John Randell. Lighting Design by Erik Foxx. Costume Design by Sandy Chantry. Sound Design by Lee Neikirk. Projection Design by Sunil Doshi. Prop Designer by Kaitlyn Chantry and Kat McCorkle.

 

I have a friend who absolutely refuses to read a book more than once. Her reasoning is that once she knows what’s going to happen in the story, (AKA the plot), she loses interest. For her, the magic is in finding out what happens next. Personally, I’ve never been that sort of person (and have argued with her on that point many times), but her theory is one that you often find lobbed at theater companies, especially those who specialize in the classical cannon (“Why, oh why do we need to see yet another production of Hamlet?”). To those people I would say that a theater script isn’t like a novel or a movie, which remains fixed each time the viewer comes to it. A play script is more like a template or, if you like, a tool box. Even within the most precise of writers there can be a great deal of variety in how a theater director explores the possibilities the playwright lays out. As an audience member, there can be a great deal of fun in going to a new production of a play you’ve seen before and saying “How are they going to tackle this one?”

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Sleeping Weazel Combines Thought-Provoking Message, Humor with “Traveling Minstrel Show”

 

Review by James Wilkinson

 

3/Fifths’ Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show. Conceived and Written by James Scruggs. Directed by Mark Rayment. Scenic and Graphic Design by Michael O’Reilly. Video Design by Jason Batcheller. Lighting Design by Bridget K. Doyle. Sound Design by Mark Van Hare. Choreographed by Nejla Yatkin. Makeup Artist: Brian Strumwasser. Presented by Sleeping Weazel through November 11.

 

There’s an inherent irony present in this review which I cannot help but appreciate. A white male is going to tell you what he thinks about a show that is very concerned with examining what happens when black men do not have control over their own narratives. If this is the kind of scenario that bothers you, then feel free to check out after this paragraph (I promise that I won’t take it personally). I’ll boil the review down to this: You should go see Sleeping Weazel’s production of James Scrugg’s play, 3/Fifths’ Trapped in a Traveling Minstrel Show. You should see it, form your own opinion on the work and contribute to the conversation that Scruggs and his director, Mark Rayment are trying to start.

 

Still with me? Fantastic…

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ArtsEmerson Delivers Tense and Moving “Kiss”

 

by Michele Markarian

 

‘Kiss – Written by Guillermo Calderon. Directed by David Dower. Presented by ArtsEmerson, at the Emerson Paramount Center, Jackie Liebergott Black Box, 559 Washington St, Boston, through November 19.

 

“Kiss” begins as a televised performance of what appears to be a melodrama from Syria, loaded with betrayal of both friendship and love, staged by young Americans. The character of Hadeel (Ashley Dixon) is being propositioned by the character of Yusef (Derek Brian Demkowicz), despite the fact that both of them are friends with their respective others, the characters Ahmed (Brandon Beach) and Bana (DeeDee Elbieh). “Hate is fire – the beginning of a second love,” Yusef tells Hadeel, who tries to resist him. “Right now you think you hate me, but that’s just the beginning”.  Hurt feelings and jealousy come into play with the arrival of Ahmed and later, Bana, especially after Bana announces triumphantly that she has been kissed. She does chastise Yusef for his odd revolt from the relationship with “Before you break up, you have to become distant and weird”, which he has not done.

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NSMT’s “42ND STREET”

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Welcome back to 1933 and the wonderful world of tapping feet in “42nd Street” at North Shore Music Theatre with a huge cast of 30 performers. It is loosely based on the 1933 movie musical with the same name which starred Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell. The stage musical version opened on August 25, 1980 and ran until January 8, 1989, won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It starred Jerry Orbach as Julian Marsh and Tammy Grimes as Dorothy Brock and I was fortunate enough to catch that musical back in 1980. “42nd Street” is the tale of up and coming chorus girl, Peggy Sawyer who arrives in New York seeking a career on Broadway.

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“In the Heights” Soars at Wheelock Family Theatre

 

By Michele Markarian

 

In the Heights.  Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Book Quiara Alegria Hudes.  Directed by Rachel Bertone.   Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA, through November 19.

 

I don’t know if anyone remembers watching the 2008 Tony awards, but the winner of that year’s Best Musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda, rapped his acceptance speech. “What an odd little guy”, I thought, with a mixture of admiration and disdain (even for the Tonys, it was an unusual form of acceptance speech). I never felt compelled to see “In the Heights”, but given the quality of Wheelock Family Theatre’s musical productions, I figured, why not?  This wonderful show, expertly directed and choreographed by Rachel Bertone, does not disappoint.

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Lyric’s “Souvenir” a Keeper

 

By Michele Markarian

 

‘Souvenir’ – Written by Stephen Temperley.  Directed by Spiro Veloudos.  Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA through November 19.

 

“How many people have already seen the show?” asked Producing Artistic Director Spiro Veloudos during his curtain speech. A large number of hands went up in the audience. “What the heck?  Who sees a show twice?” I thought. After seeing “Souvenir” once, I get it.  This is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen all year, with its two performers wonderfully in tune with each another.

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‘Silent Sky’ Shines Brightly at MRT

 

By Mike Hoban

 

‘Silent Sky’ – Written by Lauren Gunderson; Directed by Sean Daniels; Set Design by James J. Fenton; Costume Design by Anne Kennedy; Lighting Design by Brian J. Lilienthal; and Original Composition and Sound by David Keeton. Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre at the 50 East Merrimack Street through November 12

 

Lauren Gunderson’s ‘Silent Sky’, now being given glorious life by Merrimack Rep’s first rate production, is proof positive that science can indeed be fun. It certainly helps that it’s the science of the stars – and its infinite possibilities – at the heart of this dramedy, which is uplifting without hitting us over the head with the very real importance of its subject matter. Silent Sky tells the story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, the groundbreaking astronomer who devised a method of analysis that established “the relationship between period and luminosity in Cepheid variables” – which essentially provided the building blocks for the discovery that the universe is considerably bigger (by billions of times) than previously thought.

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